Thursday, March 21, 2013

Saudis To Be Fast-Tracked Entry Into The U.S.

If you are French, German, British, Israeli, or pretty much from anywhere other than Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, or South Korea, you have to go through mandatory customs and immigration checks upon entering the U.S.- often having to wait in long lines. But in January the U.S. added Saudi Arabia to that elite short list of countries that have the privilege of being fast-tracked through Customs and Border Protection (CBP) lines. Although the majority of the 9/11 hijackers (15 of the 19 terrorists were from the Kingdom), Saudi Arabians could be given the opportunity to slide on through CBP lines with just a show of their passports and fingerprints, if they are first vetted back home. What's even more troubling is that the vetting will be by both U.S. officials and the Saudi government.

An agreement to accept Saudi Arabian applicants into the Global Entry trusted traveler program drew little notice when it was announced in January. Now, some officials question why the country merits such a benefit – which is similar to a theme park "fast pass" to avoid long lines – when other allies like Germany and France are not yet included. A program for Israeli travelers was reached last May but has not been implemented.


Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the agreement in January after meeting with Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. It "marks another major step forward in our partnership," Napolitano said at the time. "By enhancing collaboration with the Government of Saudi Arabia, we reaffirm our commitment to more effectively secure our two countries against evolving threats while facilitating legitimate trade and travel."

Details about how the plan will work with the Saudis have not been released. Nayef's ministry, however, will be responsible for screening which applicants will be considered when the pilot program begins next year. It's not known whether the Saudi ministry will share its raw intelligence about applicants with its American counterparts. What is known, based on information provided by a Homeland Security source, is that each individual who makes it into the program will have been vetted by both the CPB and by the Saudi Interior Ministry against various databases.


And had it not been for someone in Homeland Security who forwarded a memo to The Investigative Project On Terrorism (IPT), we probably would still have no idea this occurred.

Read the whole article on IPT.

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